Good For: Commodity crossover. Crossovers are rapidly replacing sedans in the role of basic transportation, and all the manufacturers serious about selling to the mass market have shifted their lineup accordingly. The Sportage was one of the original models that introduced Kia into the United States market, so it makes sense that their highest volume compact crossover offering will ride on the familiar name, even if is not the little 4x4 that the Sportage originally represented. All major and minor feature design seems to have been determined by majority vote from what the rest of the market is doing. It has four cylinders, a 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive based 4x4 with a locking center differential, and rectangular interior styling with controls and displays layed out exactly where you'd expect to find them first. This might be good for a rental car that I am spending only 3 days in, but it also leaves absolutely nothing new or interesting to like about the car.
Compromises: The turbo option might offer some differentiation, but there is already noticeable torque steer even with the base 181hp engine, so I can't imagine it being particularly fun. Fuel economy is about right for a crossover this size, but will compare poorly to competitors that have introduced newer technology in their models. Generally average interior dimensions and large rear doors provide the roominess most would expect from a crossover, but the sloping roofline cuts into the versatility that you might find in other, boxier competitive offerings.
Overall reaction - Thumb down: Even in price, the Sportage doesn't stand out as a particularly good deal compared to the competition. Yes, it's adequately equipped to zip around town as good basic transportation without potentially offending you with some new or quirky feature. But while this design mentality works for Kia's top selling car today, it will very quickly look dated and aged tomorrow. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. This car will start to feel old and dated well before the 10 year warranty runs out.